Facebook has unveiled a location-based application that allows users to instantly log where they are via GPS, and display the results on Facebook in a manner very similar to Foursquare.
People using the Places application are also asked to tag any 'friends' that may be in the same location, as with Facebook Photo.
Facebook was keen to address privacy concerns with the new application. Anyone can remove their name from a posting, and settings can be adjusted to limit the number of people who receive the Places notifications.
The company has opened the code to developers via the Graph API. More location code will be released later in the year via the Open Graph protocol that will allow the integration of new features like local business search.
"We are working with an initial set of partners, including Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp and Booyah's InCrowd, to enable users to share check-ins on Facebook. This new functionality will launch in partner applications soon," said Facebook software engineer Ben Gertzfield.
Rumours have been flying for some months that Facebook will get into location-based services, and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg promised many more announcements this summer.
Augie Ray, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, suggested that Places does not expand on the functionality in current services such as Foursquare.
"You can check in at a place, share your location with friends, see who is nearby and add a place," he said.
However, the most important contribution Facebook is making to the geo-location social space is "not in form, but in scale", according to Ray.
"While Foursquare counts around 2.5 million users in its base, Facebook has 500 million. This means that Facebook is positioned to introduce the benefits of location sharing to a new and much wider audience," he said.
The analyst added that Facebook's decision to set privacy settings to 'friends only' is a sign that the company is learning from past privacy mistakes.
Facebook Places is available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android and BlackBerry Torch.
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